Smithsonian Unveils Evotourism (TM) Website For People Interested In Our Evolutionary Past


Ever heard of Evotourism? No? That’s because the Smithsonian Institution just made it up.

This month’s issue of Smithsonian magazine is all about Evotourism, which they’ve decided to trademark so we all have to put that pesky trademark symbol after it. Not a user-friendly way to coin a new term.

As their new dedicated site says, Evotourism is the “Smithsonian’s new travel-information service that will help you find and fully enjoy the wonders of evolution. Whether it’s a city museum or suburban fossil trove, a historic scientific site overseas or a rare creature in your own backyard, we’ll direct you to places and discoveries that figure in the science of evolution or offer eye-opening evidence of the process of natural selection.”

The site lists a variety of places to learn about the evolution of life on our planet, from Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, where you and your family can pose for photos in front of a dinosaur still encased in rock, to Darwin’s home just outside London. Each destination is given a detailed treatment with an accompanying article.

There are also some general articles on subjects such as the life and work of Charles Darwin. One important piece is an interview with Christián Samper, former director of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History that clears up many of the misconceptions about evolution, such as the common misperception that belief in evolution and belief in God is an either/or proposition.

The site is organized by theme, so if you have kids in tow or are a photographer, you’ll be directed to the sites that are best for you.

It’s a good list to start with, but of course there are many more sites to visit and the folks at the Smithsonian will be adding to it. They were modest enough not to include their own Natural History Museum in Washington, DC, surely one of the best Evotourism destinations anywhere. I’d also suggest the Science Museum in London, the Natural History Museum in New York City, and the Natural History Museum in Oxford, England.

For adventure travelers who want to get to the source, there’s the National Museum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which has Lucy, the famous 3.2 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis, and a display of skulls from the earliest human ancestors to modern humans in chronological order to show how primate-like traits gradually gave way to a more human appearance. Other rooms show the evolution of other animals.

What other Evotourism destinations would you recommend? Tell us in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy Flickr user InSapphoWeTrust]

Space Shuttle Now Officially A Tourist Attraction

Space Shuttle Atlantis arrived this week at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to begin life as the star of a $100 million exhibit called the Shuttle Launch Experience, expected to open in July 2013. It was the historic final journey of a space shuttle orbiter, signaling the beginning of life after space for the shuttle fleet.

“We think visitors to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will be awed and inspired by how they will see and experience Atlantis,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in a statement.

Atlantis completed its historic final journey led by 30 former astronauts who joined the orbiter for the final leg of the trip. Parked in front of the last open wall of the 90,000-square-foot exhibit building, Atlantis will be encapsulated in a protective wrap while that wall is completed.

Once inside the visitor’s complex, Atlantis will be raised 36 feet off the ground then rotated about 43 degrees to mimic spaceflight. On display, its payload bay doors will be open and the robotic arm extended.

Along with Atlantis, the Shuttle Launch Experience will have over 60 interactive, immersive exhibits about the entire shuttle program including a 363-foot-long Apollo/Saturn V rocket and other unique space artifacts.

At the entrance to the Shuttle Launch Experience, guests will walk past a full-size external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters. Strategically positioned, a silhouette of the orbiter is attached to show guests the exact size and placement of the 184-foot-tall space shuttle.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. Admission includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, the new Shuttle Launch Experience, 3-D IMAX space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, featuring historic spacecraft and personal astronaut memorabilia. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.

Right now and through November 12, the space center is offering a sneak peek, up-close and personal look at Atlantis as part of any tour. During scheduled times, a Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex tour guide will take guests through the construction zone and allow guests to take pictures and pose within the secured area.

NASA has spread around the tourism wealth by positioning remaining orbiters around the country. Enterprise is at the Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York City, Discovery is at
Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Virginia and Endeavour is at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California.




[Photo Credit: NASA photo]

Get Your Free Museum Day Tickets Here

Museum Day Live is an annual event hosted by Smithsonian magazine, coming up this weekend on Saturday, September 29, when participating museums across the country give free admission to anyone presenting a Museum Day Ticket.


Smithsonian magazine hosts the annual event to encourage people to revisit their favorite local museum or try a new one in the area. The deal is simple too. Go to the Museum Day website and register to download a free ticket good for free admission for two people at one of the museums on the list.

Finding a participating museum is also easy. Just visit the Find a Museum page to locate a participating museum in your area.

In addition to the Smithsonian facilities in Washington, DC, free every day of the year anyway, a number of museums all around the United States are participating in Museum Day. Among them is the Aerospace Museum of California exhibiting 40 military and civilian aircraft, an engine collection from early aircraft to rockets, motion ride simulator, F-16 simulators, art, aviation and aerospace exhibits. In Florida, the Harry S Truman Little White House in Key West is included too. Used as Truman’s residence for 175 days of his presidency, Presidents William H. Taft, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton also called the place home.

Special exhibits, parking and Imax presentations are not included.

The Smithsonian is a diverse organization with many interests and surely worth a visit if not a lifetime of study. This video, typical of the Smithsonian’s diversity, features “Photography Changes Everything,” a new book from the Smithsonian and the Aperture Foundation, which uses the visual assets of the museum to explore how photographs impact our culture and our lives.




[Photo-Chris Owen]

Space Shuttle To Fly One Last Time

While NASA’s space shuttle program may have ended, the orbiters and other artifacts are being prepared for their new homes and the lessons learned through the program’s history are being gathered for future generations. On its way to the National Air and Space Museum, the shuttle Discovery will make one last flight later this month.

On Tuesday, April 17, NASA’s 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) with space shuttle Discovery mounted atop will fly just 1500 feet above various parts of the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Expected to fly between 10 and 11 a.m. EDT near landmarks including the National Mall, Reagan National Airport, National Harbor and the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center, the SCA will land at Dulles International Airport upon completion of the flight.The exact route and timing of the flight, held in cooperation with the Federal Aviation Administration, will depend on weather and operational constraints. Live coverage of the event can be seen on NASA Television and the agency’s web site.

Discovery completed 39 missions, spent 365 days in space, orbited the Earth 5,830 times and traveled 148,221,675 miles from its maiden flight, STS-41-D on August 30, 1984, until its final landing during STS-133 on March 9, 2011.

Discovery was the first of the three active space shuttles to be retired, followed by Endeavour on June 1, 2011. The final shuttle mission was completed with the landing of Atlantis on July 21, 2011, bringing about the end of the 30-year program.


[Flickr photo via NASA Goddard Photo and Video]

Washington, D.C. breaks ground today for brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture

This morning, Washington, D.C. held a groundbreaking ceremony for their brand new National Museum of African American History and Culture that will be the Smithsonian Institution’s 19th museum. The event, attended by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, marked Black History Month by celebrating a new kind of history museum that looks to educate people through a candid representation of African American life, art and culture.

Says Museum Director Lonnie Bunch, “What this museum can do is if we tell the unvarnished truth in a way that’s engaging and not preachy, what I think will happen is that by illuminating all the dark corners of the American experience, we will help people find reconciliation and healing.”

While the project won’t be completed until 2015, you can still visit the National Museum’s current gallery at the Smithsonian (shown above). Until October 14, 2012, visitors can view the exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.” The showcase tells the story of President Thomas Jefferson and his conflicting roles of being a slave owner and an anti-slavery advocate. It’s a good example of the museum telling the kinds of stories that are often seen as taboo, but are important to get out to the public.

The seven-level museum will feature architecture and decor inspired by African culture and will eventually feature exhibits on military history, sports, pop culture and music, including items like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet, a Jim Crow-era segregated railroad car, and much more. So far, $100 million has been raised in private funds, and the museum will now begin attempts to raise public funds in order to meet their $250 million goal.

For more information on the National Museum of African American History and Culture, click here.